Alexander Wennberg

Blue Jackets’ nightmare season of injuries continues with Bjorkstrand news

You could not possibly blame the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans if they thought there was some kind of supernatural force aligning against them this season.

It is obviously just a lot of bad luck, but the ongoing injury situation is really starting to become absurd.

It continued on Friday with the news that Oliver Bjorkstrand, currently the team’s leading goal scorer this season with 21 goals in only 49 games, is going to be sidelined for the next 8-10 weeks due to an ankle sprain and fracture.

The injury happened in the Blue Jackets’ loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.

Columbus managed to overcome a free agency exodus this offseason to remain in the playoff race far longer than most expected, but the injuries are starting to add up into something that might be too much to overcome.

Bjorkstrand’s injury comes at a time where the team is already playing without Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Joonas Korpisalo, Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dean Kukan.

That list includes two of their top forwards (Atkinson and Bjorkstrand), their top defenseman (Jones), their starting goalie (Korpisalo), and a couple of young players they were counting on to take big steps forward this season (Texier, Wennberg).

For the season the Blue Jackets have lost a league-leading 345 man games due to injury.

Despite all of that they went on a 19-2-5 run for the two-month stretch between Dec. 7 and Feb. 7 to climb to within striking distance of the second playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Since then, though, they have managed just an 0-3-4 record in the seven games since.

As of Friday they occupy the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 73 points, just one point ahead of the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. They are also just two points behind the Flyers for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. The problem is all three of those teams have games in hand on the Blue Jackets and are on pace for more points this season.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blue Jackets suffer worst injury yet: Seth Jones out 8-10 weeks

1 Comment

The Blue Jackets received their worst injury news yet: Seth Jones is expected to miss 8-10 weeks after surgery. The surgery addressed a sprain and hairline fracture of his ankle. It’s the latest bit of injury news on a tough Tuesday for such updates.

Seth Jones injury likely keeps him out of Blue Jackets playoff push

If that recovery window holds, Jones would miss the remainder of the regular season (which ends on April 4). Hockey players sometimes beat even optimistic recovery windows, though, so we’ll see.

Jones suffered the injury during this play on Saturday:

Jones leads the Blue Jackets in average time on ice (25:17), ranking sixth overall in the NHL. Jones earned his third All-Star appearance in 2019-20, generating 30 points in 56 games.

John Tortorella must find a way to replace a versatile player, not just a star. Jones spends almost as much time on the PK (2:25 SH TOI per game) as he does on the power play (2:34).

It will be interesting to see who steps up in Jones’ jarring absence. Zach Werenski has already been logging more than an extra minute of ice time per night (23:44 to 24:52) since Ryan Murray went down with an injury, with David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov seeing similar increases. We’ll see if Torts can spread out that added burden in a way that keeps the Blue Jackets competitive.

About the only (weak) argument you can muster is that perhaps Jones’ loss might be exaggerated by some. There are certain measures, such as Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts, where Jones looks great, but maybe not mind-blowing:

Seth Jones RAPM injury

To clarify: I don’t think such an argument goes very far, aside from maybe if you’re trying to choose between Jones vs. other of the NHL’s best.

The Blue Jackets have done a marvelous job limiting high-danger chances against (maybe carrying over from their sweep of the Lightning?). If the Blue Jackets can hang in there without Jones, it would be one heck of an argument for Torts as a Jack Adams candidate.

Banged-up Blue Jackets

Again, Columbus already faced waves of injuries this season.

Alexander Wennberg recently joined a list that includes Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Alexandre Texier, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dean Kukan. Jones shows that their injury list is a galling mix of quality and quantity.

The Blue Jackets deserve ample credit for hanging in the East playoff races, but they don’t enjoy much margin for error:

There are at least occasional reasons for optimism, mind you. Jackets Insider’s Jeff Svoboda reports that Anderson, Atkinson, and Korpisalo all were on the ice on Tuesday, if nothing else.

The larger point remains: it would be quite the story if the Blue Jackets can make the playoffs, especially after losing Jones.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones on IR with ankle injury

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus Blue Jackets star defenseman Seth Jones has been sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.

The team said Monday that Jones was injured in Saturday night’s game loss to Colorado. The announcement came hours before the Blue Jackets face the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

The three-time All-Star has six goals and 24 assists this season while leading the club in ice time.

Gabriel Carlsson was recalled from Cleveland (AHL) to take Jones’ place.

The Blue Jackets also announced that they brought up prospect Liam Foudy on emergency recall from the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. The 20-year-old Foudy will play center to replace the injured Alexander Wennberg.

Columbus has been plagued by injuries this season but has still managed to play its way into contention in the tough Metropolitan Division.

Blue Jackets injured list keeps growing as Wennberg to miss 3-4 weeks

Blue Jackets
Getty

The injuries will not stop for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

They added another name to their already lengthy injured list on Monday when they announced that forward Alexander Wennberg is going to miss the next three-to-four weeks due to an upper-body injury.

He was injured during the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday afternoon.

Wennberg is one of just eight Blue Jackets to have played in at least 50 of the team’s first 53 games this season. He has five goals 15 assists on the season.

He is not one of the Blue Jackets’ biggest offensive contributors, but any injury at this point is going to be significant given the list of players they are already without. The Blue Jackets are already dealing with injuries to Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Alexandre Texier, Dean Kukan, and now Wennberg. That list also does not include Brandon Dubinsky (who has yet to play in a single game this season), or the previous injuries they have dealt with this season.

At various times this season they have also been without defenseman Zach Werenski (nine games), top goal scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand (13 games), and top winger Cam Atkinson (12 games).

When you add all of that to the offseason free agent departures it is amazing that this team is not only in a playoff spot as of Monday, but is also two points ahead of its pace from a year ago. It is a testament to the job coach John Tortorella has done behind the bench, and also the shockingly great play of their goalies (Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins, and Matiss Kivlenieks).

The Blue Jackets are on a run that has seen them collect a point in 22 of their past 24 games (17-2-5). They play again on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers in a huge game in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Panthers are dealing with their own significant injury at the moment (read about it here).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Face-Off: DeBrincat’s scoring struggles; Will Krug re-sign?

2 Comments

Every Monday, the PHT Face-Off breaks down some of the big stories and trends in and around the NHL over the next week.

Torey Krug still needs a new deal

Krug is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and he’s put together an impressive contract year. He’s coming off a two-goal, four-point performance against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. He’s now up to 37 points in 45 games.

What is he going to cost the Bruins going forward? Why haven’t the two sides agreed to a contract extension yet? Those are legitimate questions, but the reality is that there’s clearly a disconnect when it comes to the player’s value.

Krug is an undersized, puck-moving defenseman. If he hits the market, there will be no shortage of teams interested in his services. He’s put together three straight 50-point seasons and he’s currently on pace to surpass the 60-point mark for the first time in his career.

David Krejci is currently the highest paid player on the Bruins roster at $7.25 million per year. He has just one year remaining on his deal, so you’d have to think that his next number will come down significantly (if he’s back at all). Once Krejci’s gone, Patrice Bergeron would become the highest paid player on the roster at $6.875 million per year.

Are the Bruins trying to make sure that Bergeron remains the highest paid player on the team? That’s very possible. Can Krug command more than $7 million on the open market? Absolutely.

That’s probably where the disconnect comes from.

Alex DeBrincat‘s down year

DeBrincat shocked the NHL last year when he scored 41 goals in 82 games. Putting together back-to-back 40-goal seasons was never going to be easy, but his 12 goals in 52 games are way below expectations.

The 22-year-old’s shooting percentage has taken a dive and his five-on-five production has, too.

Of the 12 goals he’s scored this year, only four have come at even strength. Last year, 13 of his 41 goals were scored on the man-advantage. As you’d imagine, his shooting percentage has gone from 18 percent last year to eight percent this year.

The ‘Hawks could use an increase in production from the sniper. They’re right in the middle of a playoff race and a few more goals to make a huge difference. As of right now, the ‘Hawks are three points back of the Arizona Coyotes for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Oh, and, Chicago has two games in hand.

It’s fair to wonder whether or not DeBrincat will ever score 40 goals again, but it’s clear that he’s better than his current five-on-five production would indicate.

Pierre-Luc Dubois is the man

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, so we knew that they were going to transition to some new on-ice leaders this year. Cam Atkinson‘s production has dipped, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg and Boone Jenner haven’t produced a ton of offense either.

So, there’s been a greater importance placed on Dubois’ offense.

The 21-year-old produced 27 goals and 61 points last year and he’s currently on pace to come close to matching those numbers this year (he’s on pace for 26 goals and 65 points). But the impressive thing about those similar numbers is that he’s been able to do it without Panarin eating up the toughest matchups.

There’s many reasons why the Jackets have found a way to get themselves into the playoff picture, and Dubois is definitely one of them.

On Sunday, he scored a pair of goals in his home province, as Columbus took down Montreal in a pre-Super Bowl matinee game.

For the Jackets to finish strong, they’ll need their top point scorer to keep delivering big moments like the one above. He’s quickly turning into one of the elite young forwards in the NHL.

Alex Ovechkin isn’t aging poorly

Ovechkin continues to climb the all-time goal list. He’s now eighth all-time in goals, as he passed Mark Messier last week. He needs 13 more goals to tie Mike Gartner for seventh all-time and 22 goals to tie Phil Esposito for sixth. It’s a great story. The big question is whether or not Ovechkin will pass Wayne Gretzky’s 894 career goals. Even if he doesn’t get to 895, he might still be considered the best scorer of all time.

The 34-year-old didn’t score in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he lit it up during his previous five contests.

Between Jan. 13-31, the Russian sniper found the back of the net an incredible 11 times. He’s now scored 37 goals in 52 games, which puts him on pace for 58 goals.

“He’s a great shooter,” said Gartner, per NHL.com. “He’s got an extremely hard shot, an extremely accurate shot and an extremely quick shot. A lot of times a shooter may have one, maybe two of those things going for you. He has all three of them, and that’s a very unique package of skills that he brings to the table.

“Wayne Gretzky, just by the sheer numbers, is the greatest goal-scorer ever. He scored 894 goals, so you still have to say that he is the greatest goal-scorer. But if anybody could do it, Alex could do it.”

What’s coming up this week:
• MacKinnon vs. Eichel, Tue. Feb. 4, 7 p.m. ET
• Parise’s 1,000th game, Fri. Feb. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET
Justin Faulk vs. Carolina, Tue. Feb. 4, 8 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Flyers vs. Red Wings, Mon. Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Wild, Tue. Feb. 4, 8 p.m. ET
• Red Wings vs. Sabres, Thu. Feb. 6, 7 p.m. ET
• Sharks vs. Oilers, Thu. Feb. 6, 9:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey
• Bruins vs. Blackhawks, Wed. Feb. 5, 8 p.m. ET

NHL on NBC
• Bruins vs. Red Wings, Sun. Feb. 9, 12:30 p.m. ET

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.